• Members of the MIT community joined law enforcement officers from the United States and Canada Wednesday to pay tribute to MIT Police Officer Sean Collier at MIT's Briggs Field.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • The memorial was open to all law enforcement personnel and to members of the MIT community.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • Honor guards from several police departments carried flags onto Briggs Field.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • Honor guards from several police departments carried flags onto Briggs Field.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Thousands of law enforcement personnel were in attendance from departments across the country and from Canada.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Thousands of law enforcement personnel were in attendance from departments across the country and from Canada.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Thousands of law enforcement personnel were in attendance from departments across the country and from Canada.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Thousands attended the memorial, filling Briggs Field.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • (From left): Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph, MIT Police Chief John DiFava, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz, MIT President L. Rafael Reif, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden were among those who spoke at the event. James Taylor, far right, provided musical interludes during the event.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • The speakers offered moving testimonies of Officer Collier's life, describing his impact on family, friends and members of the MIT community.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • Vice President Joe Biden addressed the crowd.

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  • Vice President Biden saluted all law enforcement personnel and their families for their service and sacrifice.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Vice President Joe Biden spoke with law enforcement officials at the service.

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  • Singer-songwriter James Taylor performed at the ceremony.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • The Massachusetts State Police Pipes and Drums led the casket into Briggs Field.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Several pipe and drum units participated in the event.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • Several pipe and drum units participated in the event.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • A U.S. flag flew above and behind the stage, propped by two ladder trucks from the Cambridge Fire Department.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • An officer stood at attention during the ceremony.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • MIT President L. Rafael Reif spoke during the event, discussing how Collier 'immersed himself in the life of our community.'

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • A ceremonial flyover involving four helicopters took place near the end of the memorial.

    Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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  • Collier's casket was carried out of the memorial ceremony by MIT Police officers.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • MIT Police Sergeant Cheryl Vossmer, left, stood at attention with other members of the MIT Police Color Guard.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Adam Boyles, a lecturer in the Music and Theater Arts Section, led the MIT Symphony Orchestra, which provided music during the memorial.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was one of many distinguished guests at the memorial Wednesday.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • From left to right, Boston FBI chief Richard Deslauriers, U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis were among the attendees Wednesday.

    Photo: Dominick Reuter

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  • A panoramic image of the ceremony taken from MIT's Westgate dormitory.

    Photo: Julien de Wit

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  • Members of the Massachusetts State Police march into the memorial ceremony.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police march into the memorial ceremony.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick shakes hands with members of the Massachusetts State Police.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • A large American flag was hung from two ladders from the Cambridge Fire Department.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • Police drive by the Zakim Bridge in Boston on their way to the memorial ceremony.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • An officer wrote a message to Collier on his gloves, which were later placed on Collier's casket.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • Hundreds of police departments from around the country and the world attended the memorial service.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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  • Hundreds of police departments from around the country and the world attended the memorial service.

    Photo: Trooper Photography/Sean Murphy

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‘He was truly one of us’

Thousands of law enforcement officials join the MIT community in honoring fallen officer Sean Collier.


Thousands of police officers from around the nation and world gathered alongside a similar number of MIT students, faculty and staff today to honor a young MIT Police officer, Sean Collier, who was killed in the line of duty last week.

The memorial service, held at MIT’s Briggs Field on a beautiful spring day, drew a crowd estimated at more than 10,000. It featured remarks by MIT President L. Rafael Reif, MIT Police Chief John DiFava, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and a brother of the slain officer. Other dignitaries in attendance included Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Harvard University President Drew Faust.

Reif recalled that Collier, 27, had “a deep, broad, beautiful sense of what his duty involved.”

“Officer Collier did not just have a job at MIT — he had a life here,” the president said in solemn, measured remarks. “In just 15 months, he built a life with us that was rich in friendship and shared adventure.”

“MIT is a place that celebrates passionate curiosity,” Reif added. “And Sean Collier fit right in.”

Reflecting Collier’s place as a full-fledged part of the MIT family, Reif announced that Collier has posthumously been elected a member of the MIT Alumni Association. “He was truly one of us,” he said.

DiFava spoke movingly of the young officer he last saw less than an hour before last Thursday’s shooting. Adding to the famous sentiments of author and revolutionary Thomas Paine, he said, “These are the times that try men’s intellect, their hearts, and their souls.”

Such events try our intellect, DiFava said, because “it is so difficult to understand why such a senseless, brutal act is perpetrated against such a gentle, caring young man.” Our hearts, he said, “are truly broken … and it’s a daily struggle not to fall into a state of despair.” And these times try the souls of his fellow law enforcement officers, DiFava said, “because we feel almost betrayed by the society we have sworn to serve.”

Some people are born to the calling of law enforcement, he said, citing recollections by Collier’s mother that the young officer had wanted to be a policeman since age 7. “Sean had a plan, and was determined to achieve his dream,” DiFava said.

Part of what made Collier special, DiFava added, was that “he was the same person in uniform that he was when he wasn’t in uniform. His caring and his passion was genuine.”

Biden, in an emotional talk, spoke of the indomitable spirit of Boston and of the American people. “We have not yielded to our fears, we have not compromised our values,” the vice president said in a 28-minute speech.

Biden drew a sharp contrast between MIT, with its spirit of inclusiveness and meritocracy, and those who committed last week’s Boston-area bombings and murders.

“This is a diverse campus,” Biden said. “This is the greatest technological university in the world. It’s black, it’s white, it’s Muslim, it’s Christian, it’s Jewish, it’s Hindu. That’s who we are. You represent every community in the world.”

“You challenge orthodoxy, as they try to impose it,” Biden said, his voice rising. “You are the cutting edge of technology. You make no distinction between the competence of male and female. You are their worst nightmare!”

Those who attack institutions such as the Boston Marathon and MIT will be the losers in the end, the vice president said: “We will not change. They will not marginalize us. They, they will be marginalized.”

“We have suffered,” Biden said. “We are grieving, but we are not bent. We will not yield to fear. We will not hunker down.”

Two of Collier’s brothers, Andrew Collier and Rob Rogers, took the stage; Rogers spoke of their lost sibling.

“He was born to be a police officer, and he lived out his dreams,” Rogers said. He added that the family has been comforted by the “overwhelming support” of  “friends, neighbors, officers, students, strangers, old faces and new.” The presence of so many police officers at today’s service, he added, “truly speaks to the respect and bond you all have, and the club that Sean is part of for all eternity.”

Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph said, in his invocation, “We say thank you for Sean, for his gifts, his compassion, his energy, his sense of right and wrong. We hold him in memory and we pray that we might see him again. And in the meantime, we live emboldened by the virtues he exemplified.”

The event also featured two performances by singer-songwriter James Taylor, as well as music by Massachusetts State Police bagpipers, the MIT Symphony Orchestra and other campus singing groups. Taylor, accompanied by the MIT Symphony Orchestra and by three of the Institute’s a cappella singing groups, sang his songs “The Water is Wide” and “Shower the People.”

Addressing the thousands of police officers — many of whom traveled long distances, from hundreds of communities nationwide, to join the ceremony — Reif said, “I know Sean Collier was also one of you. … We cannot express the full depth of our respect and gratitude for his service, and for yours.”

“To honor his memory,” Reif said, “let us all sustain in our lives forever that same spirit of generosity and friendliness, kindness and goodwill.”


Topics: Cambridge, Boston and region, Faculty, MIT Administration, Police, Sean Collier, Special events and guest speakers, Staff, Students, President L. Rafael Reif

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